Webinar panelists say immune response, cognitive support interface offers promise for future of omega-3s

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - batuhan toker
©Getty Images - batuhan toker

Related tags omega-3 EPA and DHA Brain health Cognitive decline immune function Immune health cardiovascular health

The interface between brain health and immune system function is an exciting area for future omega-3s research, panelist during a recent event agreed.

On Thursday NutraIngredients-USA hosted a webinar on the recent science on omega-3s.  The event covered the evidence backing heart health, cognitive support and immune system function.  It turns out all three are interrelated, especially the last two, and the panelists were especially excited about the possibilities for future studies in this area.

All star panel

The all-star panel consisted of Dr Jeffrey Bland, PhD, of the Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Institute and the firm Big Bold Health.  Bland is referred Dr Jeffrey Bland, PhD is the founder and president of the Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Institute.  Dr Bland is known as the ‘father of functional medicine,’ an approach that focuses on the personalized prevention and treatment of chronic diseases.

Also on the panel was Dr Philip Calder, PhD, of the University of Southampton in the UK.  Dr Calder has done a wealth of research into the effects of fatty acids, including those from up and coming plant sources. In recent months he has led the push among researchers to demonstrate that proper nutritional support, including having an adequate intake of EPA and DHA, is crucial to having a well functioning immune system.  

Rounding out the panel was Dr William S. Harris, PhD, of the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota.  Dr. Harris is also the co inventor of the Omega 3 Index, which offers a handy way to measure omega-3 levels in red blood cells, which has become a standard marker for omega-3 status.  Dr. Harris is also founder of the firm OmegaQuant, which markets a minimally invasive blood test to measure the Omega-3 Index. 

Dr Harris kicked off the webinar with a discussion of the existing state of science on the effects of omega-3s on heart health, the oldest indication for these molecules and the one with the most research behind it.  Dr Bland followed with an overview of the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on brain health.

Finishing out the expository portion of the webinar was Dr Calder, who laid out what the latest research has to say about the effects of omega-3s on immune health.

Controlling inflammatory nature of immune response key to brain health

In the portion of the webinar focused on what the future might hold for research in this area, all the panelists agreed that a marriage of sorts of cognitive and immune health endpoints holds great promise for the future.  Both Dr Bland and Dr Calder emphasized that inflammation of one sort or another underlies many disease processes, and controlling inflammation and promoting a healthy inflammatory response is a key to keeping consumers healthy.  Inflammation in the brain is especially insidious, Dr Bland noted.  It is linked with the loss of brain neuron function in various sorts of cognitive decline as well as the more immediate concerns with cases of traumatic brain injury.

Dr Calder noted that at one time the story of omega-3s had become that DHA was ‘structural’ and EPA was ‘anti inflammatory.’  He said further research has shown this to be a misleading oversimplification.  More research into specific mechanisms, as well as the role of particular metabolites referred to as ‘pre-resolving mediators,’ or PRMs, could unlock new ways to keep the body’s most important organ functioning well for years longer.

“We’re doing a good job of keeping people’s bodies healthy.  But their minds are wearing out,”​ Dr Harris noted.

On demand webinar

To listen to this exclusive NutraIngredients-USA webinar on demand, visit the event’s home page​.

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